Been Here All Along
Currently, we are knee deep in the story of Joseph with our summer sermon series, “The Dreamer.” I hope you all are connecting with this series and drawing meaningful takeaways for your own life by studying Joseph’s.
During this series God has been speaking to me in really powerful ways through the life of Joseph, but even before we began this series it was almost as if He has been preparing my heart for this series as well. A little over a month or so ago, Frederick Buechner’s twitter account tweeted this quote:
“It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence.” – Frederick Buechner
As we study Joseph’s life and all the twists and turns he experiences, it seems this might be the very question Joseph would be asking during his time in prison. But we don’t see Joseph doing that. We see him interpreting dreams, taking care of other prisoners, being unjustly accused of a crime, being forgotten in prison for years – but never crying out to God for justice in the midst of a seemingly unjust situation. Why on earth isn’t he demanding justice? Why do we see him as a picture of faithfulness and patience? I would think it’s because he experiences God’s presence in the midst of his suffering. But just as Brady has pointed out during this series, Joseph doesn’t experience God’s presence by a burning bush or cloud of fire – he experiences God’s presence by the dreams he’s interpreting through the people he’s surrounded by.
As of late, God has been showing me that I don’t have to be glued to my Bible or deep in prayer 24/7 to experience Him. Although those things are vital to connection with God, I’m realizing they are not the only ways God can speak to us and allow us to experience His presence. Ephesians 1:23 says:
Ephesians 1:23 (The Message) “The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”
I think people are one of the primary vehicles God uses to reveal Himself to us. Joseph’s story is evident of God using people to show himself. Not in big flashes of splendor, but as Brady keeps reinforcing in his messages, “…behind the scenes the entire time.”
In the midst of Joseph’s story, another story I am reminded of is one of a man who was drowning in the ocean and was convinced God would save him from what seemed to be an inevitable demise. A row boat comes along and offers to help to which the drowning man replies, “No, I don’t need to be saved – God will save me!” The ship then continues on and a helicopter flies overhead and offers help just as the cruise ship did before. The man once again replies with much of the same, “I don’t need your help, God will save me!” Finally, a cruise ship comes along and the scene plays out similarly with the man refusing help on the reasoning that God would come and save him. Eventually the man drowns and is standing face-to-face with God. He asks God, “Why didn’t you save me!?” God replies, “Well, I sent a row boat, a helicopter, and a cruise ship by and you refused all of them!”
Whether or not this is how that situation would or would not play out exactly we’ll ignore, but the idea that I glean from it is sometimes God doesn’t show up in the way we picture he’ll show up. I think, at times, our limited view of God can lead to a misconstrued expectation of how He will show up in situations.
One of the many things God is showing me in the midst of Joseph’s story and through this series is that in seemingly terrible situations that seem void of God’s presence, He is there. But more than that – in all my distress, those times I feel like I’m drowning – I shouldn’t quickly rush by the people He places around me (because maybe He has put them there as my lifeline). More often than not, He is working and I don’t even notice it. It’s my prayer now more than ever that I don’t let those periods of waiting engulf me, making me blind to those that God has placed around me. Rather than looking for what we would expect to be large, visible feats of wonder from God to be sent from the sky in maybe some kind of abstract sense, we should be looking for His biggest, most inspiring messages to be communicated by and through His people (and sometimes through a row boat).